In the months preparing for our May 23rd/24th performances of Theatre of War, I’ve necessarily been scouring the newspapers and government websites for information on military and civilian stories, not to mention casualty stats, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project may have leapt out of a giddy desire to perform George Crumb’s seminal “Black Angels,” but it has grown into something far greater than I think anything Spektral imagined. Let me take you down the rabbit hole with me for a minute:
10,000 Veterans Affairs suicide hotline calls per month. (Army Times: Apr 22, 2010)
In 2008, an estimated 300,000 returning soldiers are classified as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or major depression. (Los Angeles Times: May 11, 2011)
In the first three years of the Iraq War, the World Health Organization estimated 151,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. (Time: Jan 10, 2008)
The benefit of statistics is seeing the macro. The peril is missing the micro. In this case the micro is the human, and when a stat like “18 veterans commit suicide every day” (a Veterans Affairs-reported number), the brain goes sideways at the enormity of it all.
To put it in perspective: What did I stress out about this week? Learning the viola part for Bernhard Lang’s Schrift/Bild/Schrift. A gouge left on my bumper by a careless parallel-park-er. Improper usage of “their” vs. “its.”
While Theatre of War won’t be preaching from any pillory, it does intend to open this conversation about the effects of war for soldiers and civilians. What we’re hoping as artists is that for two nights this May, the current wars will become personal…and not just an evening news statistic.